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Idea to demolish Memorial Arena returns to Penticton council

City staff updated council this week on the controversial Civic Spaces and Places project
A consultant report suggests Memorial Arena and McLaren Arena both be demolished to make way for a twinned-rink facility. (Brennan Phillips Western News)

Some members of Penticton council were formally introduced this week to a project that would see the demolition of the city’s most iconic buildings, like Memorial Arena.

City staff presented local politicians with further information on the two-year-old Civic Spaces and Places Plan, the first mention of the controversial proposal since Penticton’s new council was sworn-in last fall.

It calls for the city to replace, repair, sell or renew a number of its civic structures in favour of a new twin-rinks facility, community safety building and arts and culture centre.

A total of 10 existing facilities are subject to reworking in the project.

The construction of a downtown community safety building was highlighted as the No. 1 priority and would house groups like the Penticton Fire Department and bylaw services, among others.

In its update to council, staff notes the new emergency-service building will be constructed by the end of 2025 and fully replace existing facilities.

Should the project continue to move forward, a potential site for the proposed community safety building could be identified by late 2023, according to city staff.

Full implementation of the Civic Spaces and Places Plan could take 10 to 15 years, staff has previously noted.

Council voted 4-1 in favour of receiving staff’s latest report for its record, with Coun. James Miller opposed and mayor Julius Bloomfield absent due to a family emergency.

“Ethically, I’m not able to vote for the demolition of Memorial Arena and furthermore I’m not convinced that consolidating a site for the art gallery… I think it’s a jewel of a location right now,” said Coun. James Miller.

If approved by council down the line, Memorial Arena would be demolished in favour of more parking spaces.

McLaren Arena would also be demolished.

Miller did agree, however, that having a new community safety building should be the city’s No. 1 priority.

In December 2021, a total of 398 residents weighed in on the long-term plan through an online survey, with the Penticton Minor Hockey Association most notably opposed because of the plans to demolish Memorial Arena.

Since public feedback was collected, staff have met with affected committees and interested groups locally.

Modern functionality and financial sustainability were identified as the most important pieces of criteria when looking at the construction of new buildings or the demolition of old ones.

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